HL Deb 10 February 1966 vol 272 cc877-8

3.5 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government:

  1. (a) what is the function of the steam locomotive which passes through South Kensington Underground Station at least once every night;
  2. (b) whether this locomotive passes through stations or districts which are in smokeless zones;
  3. (c) why, on the assumption that the live rail electricity is turned off, the function of this locomotive cannot be undertaken by one which is diesel powered.]


My Lords, the running of a particular train is a matter of railway management, in this case the responsibility of the London Transport Board. No doubt they will see the noble Earl's Question, and write to him. Railway locomotives are not subject to the provisions of the Clean Air Act relating to smoke control areas, but dark smoke must not be emitted, and any practicable means must be used to minimise the emission of smoke.


My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. Naturally, I should have liked to learn a little more, particularly on paragraph (b) of my Question. Would he not agree with me, as the policy nowadays in Central London, and quite rightly so, is to restrict the emission of any coal fire smoke, that this is a matter to which the attention of the railway authority should be drawn? It is causing considerable dirt in the area of South Kensington, and is also, of course, causing considerable dirt in the Underground.


My Lords, having established the fact that this is a matter of railway management and not a matter of ministerial responsibility, I think I can say to the noble Earl that, as railway steam engines now are, and always have been, controlled by the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, and the Regulation of Railways Act, 1868, which governs the question of the emission of smoke, those concerned can be prosecuted by a local authority if black smoke is emitted. Although I have no official information on this matter, I am certain that the case referred to by the noble Earl arises from the fact that this is a ballast train working on permanent way renewals and maintenance, and of course the electric current is cut off when these operations are being undertaken.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to explain to the House the reason why the answer to paragraph (a) of the Question was withheld from the House although the Government have the ultimate responsibility, managerial or not, for the conduct of the railways? We are told that an answer may be sent to the noble Earl by way of the post and yet, in reply to a supplementary question, the noble Lord gave an answer which he could very well have given to paragraph (a)?


My Lords, first of all I try to be as polite as I can, and when I have some knowledge which I think can satisfy, I give it. But I must maintain the definite channel of communication, and on day-to-day management of nationalised industries ministerial responsibility is nil.

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